KUALA LUMPUR, 20 Jan – The DAP Parliamentary Leader, Lim Kit Siang has called into question Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s proposal for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the pre-Merdeka granting of citizenship to foreign immigrants in the then Federation of Malaya, calling the former prime minister’s call “ridiculous.”
Mahathir crafted the proposal two days after he admitted to giving out citizenships to foreigners in Sabah during his 22-year long rule, claiming that his actions, collectively dubbed the Project IC or Project M, were “lawful”.
In his attempt to legitimise exploiting Sabahans, Mahathir dragged in the late Tunku Abdul Rahman to bolster his argument, alleging that the first prime minister “had done worse by giving citizenship to one million unqualified people in Peninsular Malaysia” before independence.
“Why is it when he (the Tunku) does it, it is not wrong, and when I do it, it’s wrong,” Mahathir said.
Lim Kit Siang, also the Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timur, called Mahathir’s comment “ridiculous”. He reminded Malaysians not to allow Mahathir to change the subject away from the actual problem.
“Don’t allow Mahathir to divert attention from the central problem of (the on-going) Sabah RCI (which is) legalising illegal immigrants in Sabah.”
Over a million illegals in Sabah
According to Lim, the number of illegal immigrants in Sabah granted the Malaysian citizenship is not just 200,000, but “could range from 1.5 million 1.9 million”.
Sabah Department of Statistics director Norezan Wahid testified at the Royal Commission of Inquiry hearing that 28 percent, or 889,000 out of 3.2 million Sabahans are foreigners, as recorded in a 2010 census.
Local-born Sabahans have been reduced to a “minority”, Lim said this has turned them to be “strangers in their own land in less than half a century”.
A large number of these immigrants came from the neighbouring Philippines and Indonesia. The local Kadazandusun and Murut communities perceive this influx as threatening native Sabahans of their job opportunities and causing socioeconomic problems in the Borneo state.
Deafening silence from BN
Commenting on Mahathir’s remarks on the late Tunku, Lim said it is “utterly shocking”, point out that that days have passed without a single voice from the leaders of UMNO, MIC or MCA to defend the Tunku, Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun Sambanthan, the nation’s founding fathers.
“In one fell swoop, Mahathir had smeared the memory and good name not only of Bapa Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, but all the Umno/Alliance leaders involved in the Merdeka struggle,” Lim said.
Lim found it “most unbelievable” that after the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council meeting on Thursday night on 17 January, the Prime Minister Najib Razak could mention “with seeming agreement and approval” of Mahathir’s claim about Tunku giving citizenship to one million ethnic Chinese living in Malaya then.
The statement by Najib, also UMNO president, prompted Lim to call on Najib on 19 January to clear the name not only of Tunku but also Tun Razak and the one million citizens of the Merdeka generation from Mahathir’s defamation.
Last week, Prime Minister Najib Razak responded in the same vein with Mahathir towards the revelations from the RCI. Najib was reported as saying that “there is nothing wrong in handing out citizenship to foreigners as long as the law is followed”.
Citizenship for votes
Comparing the half-decade ago jus soli citizenship with the Sabah “citizenship for votes” scandal has raised ires and stepped on toes. Critics have pointed out that the merdeka citizenship was an open and transparent exercise akin to a mass social “contract”. Whereas Project IC has been hushed up and is linked to a massive vote bloc that has kept the ruling coalition in power for decades.
Sabahans have witnessed an appalling 390 per cent increase in their state’s population, with a 2010 census showed that the 1970 population of just 636,431 people has skyrocketed to 3,120,040 people in 2010, a significant climb bypassing even the national population growth, currently standing at just 164 per cent.
The number of foreigners in Sabah currently forms about 28 per cent of Sabah’s 3.2 million population, with the figures now fast reaching nearly 1 million people.
The on-going RCI, which started on 14 January, is headed by the former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Steve Shim Lip Kiong, and is expected to call a total of 167 witnesses to testify.
The royal inquiry panel, agreed by Najib to be set up only after ceaseless public pressure, is to wrap up its investigation by March this year. – The Rocket.